On April 29, the government completed changes to the army’s senior ranks by appointing Lt. Gen. Baggavalli Somashekar Raju, a former corps commander in the Kashmir Valley, as the new deputy chief of the Indian army. He is currently director general of military operations and will take up his post as vice chief on May 1 when Lt. Gen. Manoj Pande is appointed army chief of staff.
New commanders of the northern and eastern armies have also been appointed in the past two months.
Lt. Gen. Raju’s ascension to vice chief will likely mark the first time an officer who has not previously served as an army commander will hold this key position.
The Vice Chief of the three Indian Armed Forces is an officer holding the rank of Commander-in-Chief of a regional force. He functions as Chief of Staff to the Chief of Army and a key point for the coordination of military operations, intelligence as well as acquisitions.
Lt. Gen. Manoj Pande will also go down in history as the first officer of the Corps of Engineers to be selected for the post of Indian Army Chief.
Colonel of the Jat Regiment and a skilled helicopter pilot, Lieutenant General Raju served three senior terms commanding counter-insurgency operations in the Kashmir valley. He commanded the Uri Brigade along the Line of Control, a counter-insurgency force and 15 Corps (Chinar Corps) in the Kashmir Valley. He has a reputation for being a specialist in counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir but will now have to focus on the military standoff with China along the northern border of Ladakh.
He commanded a battalion during Operation Parakram – the military confrontation with Pakistan following the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament – in the Western Theater and in Jammu and Kashmir. He also led the Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT) in Bhutan.
Commissioned as an infantry officer in the Jat Regiment, he graduated from the Royal College of Defense Studies, UK. He is also a graduate in counterterrorism from the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.
As a helicopter pilot, Lieutenant General Raju flew operational sorties with UNOSOM II, the United Nations Mission in Somalia.
He is a recipient of the Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal and Yudh Seva Medal.